Google begins High Court case against Irish data regulator

Helen Dixon faces legal challenge over privacy investigation into the multinational technical firm

Google has started a High Court case against Irish data regulator Helen Dixon over a new privacy investigation into the company, taking the unusual step of initiating a legal challenge before any determination is made in the case.

The judicial review by the web search engine giant is linked to an inquiry by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) into the procedures for opening Google accounts on its website and apps.

Ms Dixon, who is due to leave her role as Data Protection Commissioner in February, has sweeping powers under the EU general data protection regulation (GDPR) to supervise the pan-European operations of tech giants such as Google which has its European headquarters in Ireland.

The company’s Irish unit, based in the Dublin docklands, employs more than 5,000 staff.


The GDPR regime, introduced in 2018, is supposed to tighten control over the use of personal data by Big Tech firms like Google. Major fines can be levied against companies found to violate the privacy of children and adults using their services.

Facebook owner Meta and video-sharing app TikTok have challenged swingeing determinations against them and big fines from Ms Dixon in the High Court. The court has not yet ruled on such cases.

The Google case stands apart by seeking a court judgment on an investigation before the regulator hands down any ruling. According to Google, the court action is a procedural step to assess compliance with the law in the investigation. The company also wants the court to examine the legal basis of the complaint.

There was no comment from Ms Dixon’s office on the case.

She is leaving the DPC next month for a post in ComReg, the regulator of phone and postal services. Her successor at the helm of a new DPC structure, with three decision-making commissioners, has not yet been named.

Google is already the subject of two separate ongoing GDPR inquiries by Ms Dixon’s office. The investigations centre on Google’s processing of location data and its real-time bidding advertising system.

However, the High Court case Google initiated on Thursday is not linked to such investigations. The company is represented in the case by solicitors A&L Goodbody.

At issue in the location data inquiry into Google are questions over the legality of company processing of such data and the transparency surrounding the processing. The DPC sent a revised preliminary draft decision in that case to Google in December 2022.

One issue in the real-time bidding investigation is Google’s legal basis for collecting and retaining personal data in its advertising technology system.

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Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times